The Mayo Clinic defines “pink eye” or conjunctivitis as an inflammation of the conjunctiva or clear membrane that lines the eyelid and the eyeball. The inflammation will make the small blood vessels of the area stand out, creating a pink or reddish appearance (hence the common term pink eye) .
Causes of Conjunctivitis
WebMD lists viruses, bacteria (including Gonorrhea or Chlamydia), eye irritants including shampoos, smoke or pool chlorine or allergic reactions including dust, pollen or special allergic reactions known to be associated with contact lens wearers as possible causes of conjunctivitis .
When spread through virus or bacteria it is contagious and can spread from person to person. The leading cause of pink eye is a viral infection according to MedicineNet.com .
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
The symptoms of conjunctivitis will vary based upon the cause with viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis all varying slightly in symptoms.
General symptoms, according to the National Health Service’s National Medical Library include:
- Crusts that form on the eye overnight
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
- A gritty feeling in the eye
- Increased watering or tearing
- Itching, redness and sensitivity to light
When to Seek Medical Treatment
While many consider pink eye to be a mild condition, symptoms lasting more than 3-4 days should be treated by a physician. It is also important to determine the cause of conjunctivitis to appropriately treat, if allergic or bacterial medication may be part of the recommended treatment.
If the occurrence of pink eye corresponds with a cold sore, check with your health care professional to rule out the possibility of the herpes virus moving to the eye. Also if there is a possibility that the iris is infected, medical attention is important. If you have severe pain, if the discharge increases or if the redness is due to eye injury seek medical treatment immediately.
Home Remedies and Natural Treatments for Conjunctivitis
An Ounce of Prevention
Proper eye hygiene can prevent contraction of conjunctivitis. Don’t share towels, pillows or washcloths or eye makeup with others. Change bedding and pillow cases often. Keep hands washed frequently; avoid contact with eyes whenever possible.
Discard any makeup, any eye make up or eye drops that may have had contact with the eye during the infection. Change all bedding, towels and washcloths.
A weakened immune system can increase susceptibility to infections both viral and bacterial. Increase the immune system’s ability to fight off the infection by increasing your intake of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Zinc.
Warm compresses are especially soothing with bacterial infections. Use a clean cloth, cotton balls or a commercial compress for the eyes for at least 10 minutes.
Grate potatoes to use as a compress on the eyes for 15 minutes, 3 nights in row to soothe and aide in symptom reduction or make a compress from cold bread over closed eyes.
Adding essential oils such as lavender, rose or chamomile to the compress may create a more soothing effect, be careful to avoid getting oil into the eyes.
Artificial tears can soothe and relief the symptoms of conjunctivitis. Apply according to package instructions to flush the eyes and soothe the irritation.